Officials have discovered small spots of rust on the columns on top of the McLennan County Courthouse’s dome less than two years after spending $2.6 million to renovate the courthouse roof.
But officials aren’t concerned, saying the rust is minimal, problems are expected with such an old building, and everything from the roof up remains under warranty.
The county’s maintenance and buildings crew discovered the rust while clearing leaves off the top of the courthouse.
Billy Bettge, with the county’s maintenance and buildings department, said the rust can be seen on part of the dome that underwent the reconstruction. Bettge said because the structure is so old, crews regularly evaluate the top of the courthouse while up there working on other projects.
Bettge said the roof should not be having problems so soon after the repairs.
“They put a coating on it. It shouldn’t be rusting through,” he said.
Typically, the Historic Landmark Preservation Commission must approve every stage of the roof work because the 112-year-old courthouse is a registered historical building. But City of Waco Urban Planner Beatriz Wharton said the removal of rust would fall under general maintenance, which does not require a Certificate of Appropriateness be submitted before work is done.
When structural trouble was discovered under the courthouse dome and slanted roof, the county paid for restorations in 2012. The project began as a routine job in 2010 but grew into a major historic preservation project when the structural issues were found.
Dustin Chapman, the county’s legal counsel, said the full scope of the rust won’t be clear until the coating manufacturer arrives to evaluate what happened, which should be this week. But, he said that the only rust the county currently is aware of is on the columns atop the courthouse dome that support the Themis statue.
Chapman said the county made sure it had good warranties on the entire renovation project, just in case something like this happened.
When the manufacturer arrives, Chapman said, county officials will meet with them to review the warranty and see what, if any, cost the county will incur. Warranties on the renovations range by project and cover the county from five to 20 years, depending on the project, he said.
County Judge Scott Felton said officials are addressing the situation early to prevent the spread of additional rust.
“It’s not surprising because you’ve got to remember this building was built in 1906,” Felton said. “If it was brand new, I’d be worried about it. But the fact we’re constantly in a rehabilitation process with this building, it’s something you have to watch out for.”
Bill Johnson, president of Johnson Roofing, which was contracted for the roof repair, said the company is already in touch with the manufacturer who made the coatings that were put on the roof.
“It’s not a serious thing at all, just little touch-up basically,” Johnson said.
Before being alerted by the county, Johnson said, they were not aware there was an issue.
“When you do a job of that magnitude, there’s always something you may have to maintain,” he said. “We’re going to look at the whole roof while we’re there.”
Meanwhile, the Themis statute that crowns the historic courthouse in downtown Waco remains without one of her arms after a storm June 23, 2014, ripped it off.
Winds up to 65 mph ripped off the left arm of the 6,000-pound, 18-foot-tall goddess of justice, blowing it into nearby trees. The statue also was renovated in 2011, and her century-old materials have left county officials wondering how to repair her.
Officials have discussed whether there is a need for a new statue; the possibility of taking her down for repairs; or repairing on site. A decision has not yet been made by county officials.